Israeli security forces surrounded the Kiryat Arab settlement on the outskirts of Hebron today to prevent outraged residents from entering the exclusively Arab city to take revenge on Arabs for the ambush of Jewish settlers Friday night.
Five settlers were killed Friday and the death toll rose to six today when one of the 17 wounded died. A military spokesman identified the sixth victim as Hannah Kreutheimer, an Israeli.
Tensions in Kiryat Arba and other settlements remained high and there was open talk of blood feud reprisals despite the severe crackdown on Arabs in the Hebron area and throughout the West Bank by the occupation forces.
The 4,000 residents of the spawling Kiryat Arba settlement were prevented from leaving the fenced complex unless they were headed north, away from Hebron. However, 20 settlers were taken by an armed escort to and from Hebron's ancient tomb of the patriarchs for morning prayers.
The 50,000 Arab residents of Hebron remained under a tight curfew as security forces searched house-to-house for the gunmen who opened fire in a narrow street two days ago in the worst attack on Jews in the West Bank since Israel occupied the territory in 1967.
In a six-hour, closed-door meeting, Israel's Cabinet ordered its ministerial Defense Committee to make decisions on a series of security proposals advanced by the ministers to assure "order and the maintenance of normal living" in the occupied areas.
The government did not disclose the proposals, but they were understood to include a ban on provocative public statements by Arab mayors; warnings that mayors will be held personally responsible for demonstrations in their towns and will face deportation; tighter controls on, and possibly the dismantlement of, the militant Palestinian National Guidance Council; and more restrictions on militant West Bank leaders seeking to travel abroad to visit Palestine Liberation Organization officials, including trips across the Allenby Bridge to Jordan.
Early yesterday, the government deported to Lebanon Hebron Mayor Fahd Kkawasme, Halhoul Mayor Mohammed Milhem and Sheik Rajab Tamini, religious leader of Hebron.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet postponed for a week action on a proposal to expropriate as much as 30,000 acres of West Bank land for settlements, which settlers said was part of an agreement to end their 45-day hunger strike outside Israel's parliament. Foreign minister Yitzhak Shamir said it would be inappropriate to discuss the settlement land issue along with the Hebron incident.
The Army set up roadblocks on the Jerusalem-Hebron road today and prevented reporters from reaching Kiryat Arba, but residents reached by telephone said that in community meetings last night and this morning, militant settlers proposed staging reprisal attacks on Arab homes in Hebron.
Last night, a group of settlers roamed through the outskirts of Hebron, smashing windows of cars and houses and demanding that Arab families leave the city. An Arab taxi driver was shot in the head in Jerusalem after picking up two men dressed in Israeli Army fatigues. When the men fled, the driver was able to make his own way to a hospital.
However, moderate settlers appeared to have prevailed in the Kiryat Arba meetings, and the settlement committee limited itself to demands that Defense Minister Ezer Weizman resign and that the military governor allow one of Friday's victims, Eli Hazeev, to be buried in a Jewish cemetery in Hebron.
Weizman has been accused by the ultranationalist settlement movement, Gush Emunim, of ordering an "appeasement policy" in the West Bank that has led to an escalation of violence against Jews.
Hazeev, an American immigrant and Vietnam veteran, was arrested and later released last year by settlers on Arab Hebron residents in their homes.He was shot eight times Friday, but authorities said they doubted his assailants recognized him in the darkness.
Funerals for two other victims, Army Cpl. Gershon Klein and Pvt. Yaacov Zimmerman, were held today in a military ceremony in Tel Aviv. Both were fulfilling their Army service while studying at the Kiryat Arba religious school.
Kiryat Arba residents described their feelings as "bitter," and some blamed the Israeli Army for the attack.
One resident, Yigael Klein, said that the day before the ambush a hand grenade was thrown at some settlers at the Hebron cemetery. But it caused no injuries, so the Army took no action, he said.
"It was a pilot attack, done to see how the government would respond. If the Army had cracked down then, Friday would not have happened," Klein said. t
He said Kiryat Arba residents shopping in the Hebron market early Friday noticed that Arabs appeared to be stocking up on food, as if anticipating shortages, but that the settlers did not interpret it as a sign of an expected curfew. Some Arab shopkeepers, Klein said, warned Jewish settlers to stay off the streets that day, but the settlers thought it was merely an attempt to scare them.
"There are a lot of hot-blooded people in every community, including this one. I hope we'll be able to stop them from doing something drastic," Klein said.
He said most settlers were pleased with the tough measures taken yesterday, including the demolition of a row of buildings near the ambush site.
There were commercial strikes in some West Bank cities and several demonstrations, which were quickly broken up by security units. In Halhoul, a group of 50 youths with Palestinian flags was dispersed by tear gas.